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Spectacular Alumni in Action

Three stories of how Wake Forest-trained medical professionals respond when circumstances demand action

Hemal, MD ’16, Answers Call with High-Flying Baby Delivery

While on a flight from Paris to New York, Sij Hemal, MD ’16, heard the call: Is there a doctor on board?

A passenger on the plane had gone into labor. Hemal, a 27-year-old second-year urology resident at Cleveland Clinic, and a French pediatrician who happened to be seated next to him answered the call from the flight crew.

The laboring mother was moved to first class. Hemal delivered her baby boy at 35,000 feet above Greenland, and the pediatrician assessed the baby. Hemal credited his Wake Forest medical school training, which included delivering seven babies.

“We’re trained to stay calm and think clearly in emergency situations,” he said later. “I just tried to think ahead to what might go wrong and come up with a creative solution. … Being on that particular flight, sitting next to a pediatrician…it’s like it was destiny. Thanks to God, everything worked out.”

Hemal, who was flying back from his best friend’s wedding in India, is completing his residency at the Glickman Urological and Kidney Institute. He is following in the footsteps of his father, Ashok K. Hemal, MD, professor of urology at Wake Forest. His sister Kshipra just completed her first year as a medical student at Wake Forest.

The high-flying delivery received news coverage on the website of the Cleveland Clinic, and from CNN and WFMY-TV in Greensboro, N.C.

Preparation Helps LaMar, MD ’02, Save Injured Skier in Colorado

His friends sometimes joke with Heston LaMar, MD ’02, for carrying around what he considers to be essential emergency medical supplies everywhere he goes, but LaMar’s preparedness was no laughing matter last March on a Colorado ski slope.
LaMar, an emergency medicine physician affiliated with Wake Forest Baptist Health Lexington Medical Center, was skiing with friends in near Vail, Colo., when he came across a seriously
injured skier.

Charlie Voysey, 16, had collided with a snowboarder and sliced open his forearm with his ski. The boy’s father, David, was assessing the very bloody injury. “Right about then,” David Voysey said, “this guy came skiing up.”

It was the ever-prepared LaMar, who has spent more than 11 years working as a medical director of an emergency department and also director of EMS, using both air and ground services.

“He said, ‘Hey, I’m an ER doctor, do you guys need some help?’” David Voysey told the Vail Daily newspaper. “He pops off his skis and grabs his backpack and next thing you know, he’s got scissors out cutting off the glove and the jacket.”

LaMar quickly determined the injury was severe.

“I could already see the blood coming through his fairly thick ski coat, which to me was worrisome that there was already blood coming through a garment that thick that quick,” LaMar said.

The boy had broken both bones in his forearm and had suffered a deep laceration that was producing a significant amount of blood. From his day pack, LaMar used combat gauze and a self-adherent wrap to create a quasi-tourniquet.

“What I’ve always not wanted to happen is for someone to have a medical emergency that I know what to do but I don’t have the things to do it with,” said LaMar, who keeps medical supplies ready in his car and also carries a backpack with the basics. “To me, that would be the worst.”

The ski patrol then readied the boy to be ambulanced to Vail Medical Center, where he underwent five hours of surgery. It included attaching two arteries, ligaments and working on nerves. Doctors there told the family it was the worst ski accident they had seen that was not fatal.

Charlie Voysey is recovering and undergoing some therapy work but will live to ski again. David Voysey credited LaMar’s actions with helping save his son’s life.

“He’s kind of the angel on the mountain,” the grateful father said. “I don’t know what we would have done had he not skied by.”

Emergency Medicine Resident Ochsenbein Receives Medal of Valor

Emergency medicine resident Sean Ochsenbein, MD, received the Public Safety Officer Medal of Valor during a ceremony at the White House in February.

Ochsenbein was honored for risking his life to save a man trapped in the burning wreckage of his car in Tennessee. The award is the highest national honor that local police, fire department, sheriff’s office or rescue personnel can receive.

Ochsenbein, his fiancée and Lt. William Buchanan of the Avery County Sheriff’s Office in North Carolina were in Tennessee on their way home from a skiing trip in February 2016 when they saw a car on fire in Carter County, Tenn. The vehicle was in danger of exploding, and a 33-year-old man was trapped inside.

Using a tow strap attached to their car, Ochsenbein and Buchanan pulled the door off the burning vehicle and saved the man. At the time, Ochsenbein was an emergency medical technician for the Putnam County Rescue Squad in Tennessee.
“Sean is one of the most incredible men you will ever meet, and we all know he didn’t think twice about going to work when he saw the crash,” said David Anderson, Putnam County rescue squad chief.

Ochsenbein and Buchanan were among 12 people—all described as heroes—who received medals during the White House ceremony. Ochsenbein, a native of Cookeville, Tenn., graduated from Tennessee Tech and earned his MD from East Tennessee State University.

Mitch Sokolosky, MD, associate chief medical officer for Graduate Medical Education and an emergency medicine physician, said, “(We are) proud to have someone of this character as one of our house staff.”

Students Named Schweitzer Fellows

Wake Forest MD students Mustafa Abid, Ziyad Knio, Kwone Ingram and Brandon Sowell have been named 2017-18 Schweitzer Fellows by the Albert Schweitzer Fellowship.

Over the next year, they will join other graduate students from across the country in developing leadership skills and learning effective ways to address the social factors that impact health. Locally, Abid and Knio will initiate a health education outreach program for refugees and immigrants while Ingram and Sowell will lead a mentoring program for minority boys who face social, academic and behavioral challenges in the fourth and fifth grades.

The Boston-based Albert Schweitzer Fellowship is dedicated to developing individuals who are committed to and skilled in meeting the health needs of underserved communities.

(top row) Mustafa Abid, Ziyad Knio, (bottom row) Kwone Ingram, Brandon Sowell